“Humility…”

We are reading today, Matthew chapter 4

http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=matthew+4&version=NLT

This chapter was jam-packed with exciting views of the beginning of our Savior’s ministry.  I would love to hear what stood out to each of you, because I am sure we all have a different answer.

As I read, I was really affected by the depth of Christ’s humility.  First, Satan offered Him some wonderful things.  And from what I have read, Satan could actually deliver on his promises.  “Hey Jesus, want to rule the world?”  “No thanks.  I will just sit here and be hungry and satisfied.” Can you imagine after 40 days of fasting, probably learning a lot about what God was asking of Him, and He had to strength to turn down the riches of the world?

And then, He quickly became a rock star.  Not only were people following Him for miles around, but He was actually a HEALER!  I don’t know about you, but it would be really hard for me not be full of myself if I had that kind of awesome power.

Jesus could have honestly ruled the world in His day.  He had the knowledge and power to do so.  However, His humility and self-discipline would not allow Him to do so.  Instead, He did what He could to honor God while He was here.  And when it was time for Him to go, He willingly walked the road to calvary.  

Nothing He did on this earth was for Himself.  It was all for us.  Every last minute of it.  Now that is humility that I can only hope for.

Lord Jesus,

Oh to have your servant’s heart.  My king I fall so short, please cloak me in humility – that I may be more like You.  Strengthen me with Your Holy Spirit, that I may withstand temptation and the assaults of the enemy.  Help me to have the attitude of Christ – that I might be useful in Your kingdom.  Look upon me with forgiveness for my failures – that I might be renewed.

In Christ’s holy name I pray,

Amen

“An Unusual Character…”

Our reading today comes from Matthew chapter 3:

http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=matthew+3&version=NLT

 

I read this and think of John the Baptist, the very first “evangelist.”  We take for granted the stories we read about him, and never think about who he really was.  To my recollection, there are no stories of his youth in the Bible, so we don’t really know how he felt the call to be the herald for the Messiah.  So I consider today, his life and his calling.  It does not appear easy to me.

Given his parents, I believe his upbringing should have been close to that of other good Jewish families.  He probably went to the synagogue on the Sabbath, observed all the laws, learned the stories of his people.  But somewhere along the way, he was called by God in what must have been a miraculous way.  I say miraculous because he, all at once, wandered out into the wilderness, began eating bugs, and wearing strange clothing.  He began aggressively yelling at people as they passed by, “Repent, sinners!”

Can you picture it?  Seemingly normal one minute, and an apparent lunatic the next?  His story reminds me of some of those overly enthusiastic Christians today that stand and yell on street corners.  You know the ones, those people that even we (the regular church) mostly avoid because they look crazy.  What makes a person do that?  It is either mental illness or an undeniable encounter with the living God.

I am sure it wasn’t easy.  I am sure there were many that scoffed at him and ridiculed him.  There were probably those that were mean and vindictive toward him.  But he kept going, shouting in the wilderness for all to hear.  The reason I don’t think he was crazy, is this:  The Bible records that all kinds of people sought him out.  They came day after day to be baptized, and hear the prophesying of the coming Savior.  

See, John met a very real need for the people of Israel.  He preached about hope and deliverance, something the regular church people cared nothing about.  He preached about healing and forgiveness – things that we still need today.  

I wonder how I would have reacted to John and his message.  His strange ways, odd appearance, and crazy message.  Would I have embraced him as one sent by God, or would I have crossed over to the other side of the street because he made me feel uncomfortable?

Dearest Lord,

It is so easy to worship You and accept the stories of Your faithful witnesses from the backside. I look up to the people in the Bible because they were heroes.  But would I have thought so then?  Please forgive my judgmental attitudes.  Help me to see all believers as brothers and sisters in Christ, regardless of their appearance or behavior.  Help me, Lord to see You when I look into their eyes, and to support their calls and ministries, as much as my own.

In the Name of the Lamb I pray,

Amen

“Fear…”

Good Morning Friends,

Today we are studying Matthew, chapter 2.

http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=matthew+2&version=NLT

 

As I read this passage, only one word comes to mind: FEAR.  I don’t know much about King Herod.  I know that he was 1/2 Jewish, a magnificent builder, and a murderer of innocent children.

What would make someone command the slaughter of one child, much less hundreds?  Herod was ruler over Judea.  He was afraid of the prophesied Messiah.  He was afraid of what he might lose.  He was afraid of what this baby would mean for his future.  You would think, with his Jewish ancestry, that he would have truly rejoiced and chosen to worship Jesus.  But fear led him in another direction.

What about us?  We are the people of Christ, built to worship Him from the depths of our souls.  But so often we find ourselves in a “lukewarm” stage, not willing to give it all up for our Savior.  Why is it, brothers and sisters, do we not allow Him to be Lord of our entire lives – our relationships, our decisions, our money?  

What is it that we fear from Jesus?  What are we afraid to lose by completely surrendering to His will?  Our pride, our self-sufficiency, our own free will?  It is a scary thing to say, “Your will be done and not my own.”  But I have to believe that, in doing so, I will find exactly what the wise men did – a treasure beyond compare.  I believe that if I allow Jesus to have control of my life, then His presence will outshine anything else.  And I will be fulfilled beyond measure.

This is the time for the children of the living God to let go of our fear and live the lives He has intended for us.

Dearest Savior,

You are the pearl of great price.  You are the voice of wisdom and author of my salvation.  Please forgive me when my trust in You falls short.  Please forgive me when I reject You in order to hold on to the things of this world.  Renew my heart, O Lord.  Let Your Holy Spirit control my mind, and therefore, my attitudes and actions.  Lead me to a path of complete surrender to Your will.  And teach me what it means to be an authentic disciple.

In the name of the Rock I pray,

Amen

The opinions expressed here are my own and do not reflect those of the Liberty Crossings UMC staff or leadership.

 

“A Legacy…”

Good Day Friends,

I hope you are beginning this Lenten season with a sense of peace.  I don’t know what kinds of disciplines each of you have decided to adopt for Lent, but maybe you would like to try this one with me.

For the next 40 days, I will be reading (and praying) through the Book of Matthew.  When was the last time you chose a book of the Bible and actually studied it all the way through?  For me, it has been way too long.  So I invite you to come along with me and seek the revelation of God through this sacred reading.

To make it easier for those of you reading these entries on mobile devices, I will include a link each day to our corresponding chapter from BibleGateWay.com.  This is a great site.  If you click on the link, it will pull up the days chapter in the New Living Translation.  On this page you are able to change to another translation if you wish, and for those commuters out there, you can even listen to the chapter as you drive.  Just choose Audio Bible from the list on the left of the page (a hint:  Max McClean is awesome to listen to!)

So, all I am doing is reading a chapter each day (doesn’t take more than 5 minutes usually) and I will contemplate it’s meaning for me.  “What is God’s message for my life in the text?”  “Do I hear any of those Sacred Echoes?”  I hope that you will share with our community any new understandings you gain through this process because we are all in this journey together.

Peace friends.

Matthew Chapter 1 – A Legacy

As I looked at the first page of this book, I thought “Oh great, another genealogy.”  I pretty much glaze over those in the Bible because I don’t know the people, don’t really see any beneficial information, and can’t pronounce most of them.  But because of this new commitment I have made, I took a good look.

Jesus’ family tree reads like a “Who’s Who” of the Bible:  Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah, David, Solomon, Hezekiah, Zerubbabel, Boaz…

There were some great Bible heroes in there (along with some questionable characters and some unknowns) and it made me re-think Jesus a little bit.  I have always thought of Jesus as the all-knowing Son of God.  He is God, so surely He didn’t need any spiritual help along the way.  But I am pretty sure I am wrong about this assumption.

Jesus was also a man, who grew from a little boy.  With a family tree like this, I have to believe that He spent many nights at home, maybe sitting by the fire, listening to the stories of His family.  He heard about the faithfulness of Abraham, the courage of David, the integrity of Boaz, the vision of Zerubbabel – these stories had to have had an effect on Him.

There is something of a legacy that exists for most families, I believe.  They can be destructive:  alcoholism, abuse, etc… Or they can be constructive in teaching the next generation.  Growing up as a young man, maybe even before he realized His calling, do you think that Jesus counted Himself among a long-line of faithful Israelites?  Did his chest swell with pride when the great stories were recounted?  Were His opinions and attitudes formed by the actions of  His ancestors?

Obviously I don’t know the answers to any of these questions.  However, by asking them, I am led to ask myself what kind of legacy am I creating for the next generation of my family.  Am I sharing the stories that will build their faith and values?  Am I creating a home that honors God in both our past and our future?  Hmmm.  Definitely some things I need to think about.  I guess genealogies aren’t so bad after all…

Heavenly Father,

How I praise You.  For You alone are my Rock and my Foundation.  Help me, please to lead my children well.  Show me how best to communicate Your goodness to our family over the years.  Help me to lead my children down the path of faithfulness, that they might be recognized as true disciples.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+1&version=NLT

“Where the Rubber Meets the Road…”

“If we claim, “We don’t have any sin,” we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.  But if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from everything we’ve done wrong. If we claim, “We have never sinned,” we make him a liar and his word is not in us.”  

– 1 John 1:8-10

As believers we intellectually adhere to the fact that all people are sinners.  That is part of our story.  We talk and sing about how thankful we are to be forgiven, especially on days like today.  However, I find myself struggling to move from the generic, “I am a sinner” to a more specific “Father please forgive me for…”  See I am ok with the idea of being a sinner as long as I don’t face up to the reality of the depth of my sin.  As long as “I’m a sinner, you’re a sinner, but we’re all ok with Jesus” then I can be pretty comfortable with the concept that I need forgiveness.

But when it comes to actually naming my sin and asking God to forgive me – that is a different story.  I’m not really all that bad, am I?  I don’t think I do anything really wrong on a daily basis.  And if I do make a mistake, I didn’t mean to.  So that doesn’t make me a bad person does it?

Here is where the rubber meets the road friends.  As long as we justify our way out of admitting our sin, we are lying to ourselves and to God.  As believers, we say we want a relationship with Jesus.  But we can’t have a deep and enriching  relationship until we are honest.  Until we can admit that we need a savior, then there is no room for Jesus in our lives. We are just playing church.

But beyond that, until we come to terms with our own brokeness – there is no healing, no grace, no peace, no blessing.  Because if we are all ok, we don’t need those things do we?

Jesus came that we all might have life and have it abundantly.  The only thing standing in our way is our own pride.  I invite you to experience the joy and freedom of living a fully forgiven life in Christ.  It isn’t easy to take that first step of confession and repentance, but believe me:  it is so much better on the other side.  His love for us transcends anything that we can do wrong.  In Him there is no guilt, no shame, or condemnation – only forgiveness and second chances.  In His presence there is peace, because He accepts us as we are.

Today is the day that we gather as a family to confess, repent and be renewed in Christ.  I hope you will join us at 6:00 p.m. for our Ash Wednesday service.  It is a brand new chance for me to get right with my Savior and receive this wonderful gift that He is offering.  I don’t know about all of you, but after the year I have had – I surely am looking forward to it.

Peace brothers and sisters.

Heavenly Father,

Blessed be the One that comes in the name of the Lord.  My Savior comes to take away the sins of the world, including mine.  Lord, I try my best every day to do good.  So I probably don’t even know all the things I have done that have disappointed You.  So please search my heart, point out anything that offends You, and make me aware of it.  Help me to do better.  You are my only hope, and I am putting my trust in You.

Amen

The opinions expressed here are my own and do not reflect the opinions or beliefs of the Liberty Crossings UMC staff or leadership.

“I’m Giving Up Nachos for Lent…”

‘These people honor me with their lips,
 but their hearts are far from me.
Their worship is a farce,
for they replace God’s commands with their own man-made teachings.” – Matthew 15:8-9

I love nachos, and mexican food in general.  I especially like the kind with the fajita chicken and the gooey cheese (not the shredded.)  I like the guacamole (but only if it is spicy.)  I like to pour fresh salsa over it… YUM!  So Lent begins tomorrow and I am supposed to give up something I love until Easter.  I figure nachos are great because, most likely, I will have the opportunity to order them on several occasions during the next six weeks and I will abstain.  I will choose something not quite as exciting, maybe enchiladas… I won’t be near as happy when we head to Leon’s for lunch next week, but that’s ok because it’s all for Jesus…  That is what it’s all about right?

I hope that, by now, most of you are appalled by my attitude.  This type of thought process, I have to believe, is an affront to our Savior. I give those that don’t quite understand Lent a break, because maybe it was not a part of your faith tradition before now.  Probably most of us have no real clue about Lent and what it is.  But let me assure you friends, this is NOT what it’s all about.

Lent is the most sacred time of the Christian year.  It is a holy time, a season set apart for us who believe to reflect, confess, repent, and be renewed by the grace of Christ.  It is a time for us to drawn near to our Savior and revive our relationships with Him.  It is a time of deep spiritual growth for those that take it seriously.

I am saddened by many who, calling themselves believers, have turned this grace-filled opportunity into something trivial and superficial, almost a joke.  Two thousand years ago, a man was willingly tortured to death so that I might have grace and forgiveness.  I don’t think giving up nachos is an adequate way to honor Him.

However, I am also saddened by those that take Lent so seriously that they miss the point.  I have some acquaintances that choose what they are “giving up” and follow it to the letter.  But many times I have seen them making themselves miserable in the process.  Quite often I have heard the phrase, “Oh I can’t wait for Lent to be over, then I can….”  I don’t think that is the whole story either.

The whole point of Lent is to connect deeply with Christ – to feel His presence and hear His voice in an ongoing manner. The whole point is to remember His sacrifice for us and to strongly embrace the gift of grace that He has for us.  The whole point is to surrender our hearts and minds to Him that we might be transformed into His image. That is what Lent is all about for me.

Maybe by depriving yourself of something, that is a great reminder for you and does draw you deeper into His sacrifice.  Great.  But don’t forget the joy of being in communion with the One who loves you unconditionally.  Before making any decisions, we need to be asking the question, “Will this course of action help me to love Jesus more, or just make me miserable for 6 weeks.”  I fear that many fall victim to legalism during this time and miss the great blessings available to us.

Why don’t we do this?   Over the next couple of days let’s pray and consider, ask Jesus what would draw us closer to Him during this season and be obedient to that command.  Whatever He gives us will be good.  If we ask, He will surely be faithful to lead each of us down our own path to becoming a highly committed disciple.

Some ideas that are floating around in my head are:  A TV fast replaced with Bible study, A discipline of quiet time and journaling everyday, a major re-organization of my house and giving anything I don’t actually need to the poor.  I have a lot of ideas – but I will trust Him to show me the right one.

I don’t know yet what I will be doing this Lenten season, but wherever He leads me – I know He will be there waiting for me.

Gracious Lord,

Forgive me when I fail to honor You the way I should.  Forgive me when I fall short on the promises I make to You.  I thank You for Your unending grace and mercy toward me.  Help me to embrace this Lenten season as a period of hope and opportunity.  Help me, Father, to draw closer to You each day and to experience Your presence in magnificent ways.  And protect me from my enemy, who surely will seek my destruction and failure during this time.

In the name of the Lamb I pray,

Amen

The opinions expressed here are my personal opinions and are not reflective of the staff nor the leadership of Liberty Crossings United Methodist Church.

“Loud and Proud…”

“Everyone who acknowledges me publicly here on earth, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven.  But everyone who denies me here on earth, I will also deny before my Father in heaven.”  – Matthew 10:32-33

Good morning fellow pilgrims!

As we continue our journey of faith together, we are entering a most holy time: Lent.  As I have been praying over this season, many thoughts have come to mind that I would love to share with you.  However, I woke up to something this morning quite extraordinary, I knew that I must share this today.

I did not watch the Oscars last night.  But I did see the news earlier today and was deeply moved by Matthew McConaughey’s acceptance speech for best actor.  It humbled me to ask myself, “Am I quick to give God all the glory for the achievements in my life?  Or do I accept the praises of others as if I am the cause for the good things going on around me?”

We all want to feel as if we have done a good job.  And most of us give our best efforts and feel great when things turn out well.  There is nothing wrong with that.  However, my heart was drawn to something Matthew said right out of the gate – he gave thanks to God for opportunities that were not created by himself or any other man.  WOW! And the fact that he said it on a world stage, a place where it was not expected, or maybe even accepted – that brings even more glory to our Father above.

A question for all of us today:  When the good things happen in our lives (promotions, accomplishments, achievements,) are we taking those opportunities to tell people about the grace and providence of God?  When people witness our good works, do they say, “Wow, she did a great job?”  Or do they admit, “Wow, look what God is doing through her!”

I so hope that my experience is the latter.  What a privilege to be a witness to the greatness of our Savior.

Heavenly Father,

Blessed are You, that provide me with every good gift.  Gracious are You, that open doors for me, prepares the way for me, and straightens the road in front of me.  Help me, Lord, to always remember that my successes come because You are walking with me.  And fill me with Your Holy Spirit, that I would always have the courage to speak Your praises, to anyone who would listen.

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit I pray,

Amen

If you haven’t had a chance to see his speech (it’s only a couple of minutes) take a look at the link below: